This is part two of Robin Wheeler's Chef's Choice interview with Christopher Lee of Cafe Ventana, Sanctuaria, and Chuy Arzola's. To read part one, click here. Part three, a recipe from Chef Lee, is here.
Did your family cook when you were a child? If so, what meals stand out? Yes, both my mom and dad cooked. For my mom, her salmon patties. She and I were the only ones that ate them. Dad, stir fry and black gumbo.
How old were you when you started cooking? Off the books, ten or twelve. I say off the books because I managed to melt a Tupperware cup in the microwave trying to melt chocolate chips to make chocolate milk.
What was your first kitchen job? Dishwasher at Ponderosa.
Did you attend culinary school or college? Hard knocks! Apprenticed under the late Jean Claude Guillossou and Cafe de France's Marcel Keraval, both old-school French, both masters in their own right and both dedicated to technique and consistency.
What do you eat? Crow as little as possible.
We'd be most surprised that you eat _______. 7-Eleven hot dogs with chili and cheese (not so much any more).
What do you cook at home? Usually Sandra (my wife) and I eat fish and vegetables. Breakfast is a big deal in our house, also.
Favorite restaurants elsewhere? Bardessono in Napa, Paradise Cafe in New Orleans, Woody's BBQ in Florida, Malone's Steakhouse in Tupelo and Hot Chocolate in Chicago.
Your favorite food city? California.
Favorite recent food find? Bragg's Amino Acid.
Most essential ingredient in your kitchen? Fresh herbs.
Favorite local ingredient and where you get it? Vegetables from Andy Ayers or my garden.
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